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How much uncomposted manure can be added to soil?

 
Posts: 26
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I'm helping a friend get their garden going in the SW of the US that could really use the addition some organic matter.  We have a lot of sheep/goat manure on the property and out in the desert there's a lot of horse and some cow manure.  Does anyone have general recommendations on how much uncomposted manure can be added to our soil this season?  My understanding is that sheep and goat manure be added directly without composting as they are considered "cold-manure".  The horse and cow is dry/aged but not composted.  Thank you!!
 
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I would recommend to be easy with it, and would always prefer composted manure over uncomposted. Since manure is very high in nitrogen, your plants will take this up and will grow very intensely, that's why everyone is so keen on manure. However plants can only take up a limited amount of nutrients, and when nitrogen is overwhelming it, the plants cannot "digest" it and nitrates are just stocked up inside it.
I don't know if you are talking about an edible garden but when plants that contain alot of nitrates get eaten the nitrates in it will be converted to nitrites in your body. Nitrites are poisonous in high doses but can also be converted to nitrosamines, which can cause cancer.
Also the plants that are saturated with nitrates can't take up other nutrients needed, causing it to be highly susceptible to diseases and pests.
Other disadvantage of these high nitrate levels is when they end up in the watersystems. There they feed the algae who use up all the oxygen in the water, creating a shortage and killing most aquatic life.
I only use compost for myself but manure (especially aged) will do no harm if used in modest quantities, and on a small scale level.
Another thing you can try is to compost it in place, adding a carbon source (wood chips,twigs, cardboard maybe?...) and then watering it with aerated compost tea (you can look this up, alot of DIY methods to make it in an unexpensive way.) This will spark your microbial life, they will get to work and decompose the organic matter and stabilize, releasing nutrients to the soil in a balanced way.
Hope this was helpfull and not too rant-y
 
zurcian braun
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Hey there thanks for the reply.  Yes compost is my religion.  Just here at a friends place who wants to get their garden (edible) going with what they have available to them right now.  Thanks for the info about the nitrates/nitrites!  
 
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Nutrients in fertilizer are measured by the NPK rating which is based on weight So if your uncomposted manure is very high in those nutrients then the appropriate solution is to apply less. Google can be your friend.
 
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I have a similar situation, trying to create a garden on absolutely barren desert land. Last year was my first year in this garden, and I only managed to get manure into, and to plant, about a third of it. This year I'm hoping to do at least two thirds, or hopefully all, even if part might have to just be cover crop buckwheat. Last year I got 6 sacks of absolutely dry animal dung, mostly bovine and some goat and sheep. It was in rock hard chunks. I dug it into the recessed garden beds as well as I could and watered them, and then kept going through and digging them up to mix them and break up the chunks of dung. Some things grew okay, especially turnips, a couple types of leafy greens, and some seedling perennials like asparagus and trees. But other things like beans and tomatoes were pathetic. The bean plants were 4 inches tall and actually set fruit, so each little plant had 2 or 3 beans dangling down to the ground. Sheesh! Broccoli grew, took a long time to get big, and finally produced nicely -- in November, which is ridiculously late here, and already frosting at night.

I got another half a pick-up truck load of dry cow dung recently, and have piled it up on two of the recessed beds. I keep watering it with a hose and digging it over to the middle and back out in the hopes that it will break up and compost a bit. And then bed by bed, I'm mixing in a couple of inches of this material and several inches of autumn leaves I collected back in November, and every few days I dig and mix a previously dug bed, break up the dung chunks, and then smooth it out and water it. I'm hoping to plant tomatoes and winter squash in these beds, and since those don't want to be planted out in this climate till June, I'm hoping the new organic matter will be well incorporated and partly broken down by then.

2020April02-new-garden-in-desert.jpg
Black beds are watered dung piles. Beds with leaves and sticks are mulched tree seedlings from last year.
Black beds are watered dung piles. Beds with leaves and sticks are mulched tree seedlings from last year.
 
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There might be some health concerns of using manure that has not been composted.

Also there is a risk that it might burn the plants.

Also from this thread:  https://permies.com/t/124751/Microbial-Carbonisation-turning-compost-technique#1000202

Susan Wakeman said Uncomposted manure will leach nutrients - nitrogen will wash out for ex. Which is why legal restrictions are in place for the amount permissible per ha of field. Plus ammonium (?) gases out (the manure smell), so you lose N to the air. Hence the farmer's comment on composting it.

 
John Indaburgh
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Last year I converted my clay lawn into a garden. The lawn had maybe an inch of sod and then raw clay. I dug in two inches of old black horse manure or mushroom manure and then another inch  and dug it digging in a different direction to help break up the clay clods. When I set out my tomato plants I also dug in a couple spade full of the mushroom manure. My tomato plants were tall, but not excessively. So I'd suggest using just the 3 inches. I was trying to make the clay look like soil and think that I should have used something else for some organic matter like peat or compost which I didn't have. But in the south west I don't know if you have clay and have no experience growing in sand.
I researched the NPK of fresh and composted horse manure:

composted horse manure:     NPK  0.95 -  0.3  - 1.50
uncomposted horse manure   NPK  1.5  -  1.4  -  1.75

I got the uncomposted numbers from this link:
https://www.hobbyfarms.com/everyone-poops-what-matters-is-how-you-handle-it-3/
The uncomposted nitrogen is about 60% lower in the uncomposted manure.. They also state that there's a rapid release of nutrients with the fresh manure. I'd guess that if you used an inch to an inch and a half of horse manure you'd be fine. The potash number is similar, but the potassium number has the most change. In my example plot I added bone meal to my 3+ inches of manure.

I once grew two crops of corn in the same spot. When I planted the second crop I wanted more manure  and could only find fresh manure so I dug in two inches and the corn was fine. But corn needs lots of nutrients.
 
zurcian braun
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Hey all, thank you for the detailed responses. Rebecca,  I would love to hear about future progress.

For this spot here, I guess a more specific question might be about the volatility/stability of nitrogen in whatever form that it's in when in manure.  This isn't a giant heap of manure. But horse and cow droppings that we have collected from around the landscape.  It's been in the baking sun all day, thoroughly dried and just crumbles when you squeeze it.  My guess is that a fair amount of that nitrogen has been lost but that's just an assumption. Any thoughts?

Thank you again!
 
zurcian braun
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Ooo also, Rebecca, do you know Jason and Kaitlyn?  They're friends of mine who were shepherding in Ladakh.
 
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To answer your question you need to know a few things. First is to have a soil sample and then look at the N-P-K levels needed and levels per ton of manure. As an example, one of my fields needed 100 lbs of N, 60 lbs of P, and 80 lbs of K. The manure I was using was chicken, but all manures have slightly different values so check yours. But using this chicken manure meant I could only apply 2 tons to the acre as that was adding 60 lbs of P, but I still needed more nitrogen and potassium. If I added 3 more tons to get my N & K right I would be way in excess of P which can be toxic to plants. So I still needed to add some other organic fertilizers to make things right without overdoing it. Also NEVER use raw manure with ground touching, or root vegetables. As manures can have harmful bacteria, virus etc. Especially chicken and horses. Vegetables that don't have soil splashing up on them or that are not laying/growing on the soil should be ok, but I'd still wash them thoroughly before I would eat them.
 
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